I’m sure you’ve heard (or read) by now that the United States Supreme Court sided with retail giant and competition-killer Wal-Mart when it decided that hundreds of thousands of women who suffered varying degrees of discrimination could not band together and bring a class action lawsuit. For anyone who has followed this Court’s decisions, it is no surprise that Wal-Mart defeated the claims advanced by its workers. The topic that should be addressed is whether the Court strayed from precedent in order to reach its decision. The answer: of course it did!
Precedent is supposed to make our legal system consistent and predictable. We even have a Latin phrase for it: stare decisis. However, when you are a results- and ideologically-driven Court, what do you do when the precedent is in favor of the other guys (gals here, for sure)? The answer: ignore it!
When courts make case-by-case decisions, the integrity of our system is undermined. But that is a theoretical point. The practical point is the way decisions like this are reported. When a progressive cause wins it is due to judicial activisim and chalked up to liberals’ disregard for the rules. When a conservative cause wins, the headlines range from “Greedy Trial Lawyers Lose Payday!” to “Frivolous Claims Rejected!”. How is that possible when the rules, as in the Wal- Mart case, should have led to a different result? Where is the mainstream reporting on conservative judicial activism?